HELM, THOMAS KENNEDY III, 66, who was a civic leader and chairman emeritus of Stites & Harbison, PLLC, Kentucky's oldest law firm, died Friday, March 15, 2013, in the Intensive Care Unit at Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester, MN, surrounded by his wife and children.
Complications from myelofibrosis, a rare bone-marrow disorder and type of chronic leukemia, caused his death. Mr. Helm had struggled against the disease since 2007, traveling monthly to the Mayo Clinic to receive treatment and participate in experimental drug trials.
As chairman of Stites & Harbison, from 1997-2011, Mr. Helm led the firm to more than double in size through internal growth and by combining with firms in Atlanta, Nashville and Alexandria. Under his leadership, Stites & Harbison developed one of the top 100 Intellectual Property practices in the United States and instituted a nationally recognized lawyer-training program.
In 2007, Edge International, an international legal consulting firm, surveyed top law firm managing partners who identified Mr. Helm as one of the top ten managing partners most admired by his peers for excellence in leadership. He spoke and wrote on numerous occasions on legal management topics including strategic planning, law firm mergers, client services and lawyer training and development.
Mr. Helm was a transactional lawyer who focused on business law and banking and finance, with significant involvement in airport law. He led a team of dozens of lawyers from five firms that accomplished the $780 million Louisville Airport Improvement Program at Standiford Field, now Louisville International Airport.
Mr. Helm was listed in: The Best Lawyers in America® (1995-2013), for Corporate Law, Mergers & Acquisitions Law, Municipal Law and Public Finance Law; Kentucky Super Lawyers magazine, where he was listed among the Top 50 Lawyers in the state and Chambers USA,"America's Leading Lawyers for Business." He was admitted to practice law in Kentucky and the District of Columbia and before the United States Supreme Court. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the Kentucky Bar Association and the Louisville Bar Association, and of the Midwestern Advisory Board of the Managing Partner Forum.
He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude in political science from Yale University in 1968; his master's degree in English from Indiana University in 1970; and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1974, where he graduated Order of the Coif and served as executive editor of the Virginia Law Review.
Mr. Helm was a former member of the board of Whayne Supply Company and of Griffin & Company, and he also served as a director of National City Bank of Kentucky.
Mr. Helm's community involvement included memberships on the boards of: Greater Louisville, Inc.; the Louisville Zoo Foundation; the Japan-America Society of Kentucky; the Louisville Science Center; the Kentucky Country Day School and the University of Louisville Board of Overseers, of which he chaired the Visiting Committee to the University of Louisville Law School. He was a past member of the board of West End School and a member of the Board of Trustees of Simmons College of Kentucky. He was past chairman of the Board of Directors of the Louisville Urban League, an organization that presented him, in 2009, with its Social Responsibility Award. In 2012, Steven L. Beshear, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, appointed him as a member of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
He was a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
He loved thoroughbred horse racing, playing golf, rose gardening, and watching University of Louisville basketball and football.
He was, unfailingly, a generous, loving, loyal and supportive advocate for his family and his friends, in good times or bad, and he possessed a sharp sense of humor that kept everyone alert.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Schmick Helm; his son, Thomas Kennedy Helm IV and his wife Geraldine Isadora Alcid; and his daughter Mimi Helm Ryan and her husband Neal Reynolds Ryan. He is also survived by his mother, Nell Hoge Helm; two brothers, Peyton Randolph Helm and Hunt Chouteau Helm; and three grandchildren, James Craik Ryan, Mitchell Reynolds Ryan and Ligaya Clara Nell Helm.
His memorial service will be 11 a.m. Saturday, April 13, 2013 at Christ Church Cathedral, 421 South 2nd St. Arrangements are under the direction of Pearson's.
Expressions of sympathy may take the form of contributions to St. Mark's Future Fund, the Louisville Urban League, or the U of L Foundation.
Published in The Courier-Journal from March 18 to March 20, 2013